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WADA hands Russia 4-year sporting ban

The World Anti-Doping Agency's executive committee banned Russia from competing at international sports events for the next four years.

GENEVA (AN) — The World Anti-Doping Agency's executive committee banned Russia on Monday from competing at international sports events for the next four years, a ruling that bars the country from competing in the next two Olympic Games.

The committee's 12 members, meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, unanimously endorsed a recommendation by an internal compliance panel to declare that Russia's anti-doping agency, RUSADA, has not been adhering to Montreal-based WADA's core policies, rules and regulations for sport around the world.

The decision prevents Russia from staging official teams bearing its flag and anthem for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and 2022 Beijing Winter Games, and for most major international competitions through 2023. Those include premier events such as the Youth Olympic Games, Paralympics and FIFA's World Cup.

Russia also may not bid for the right to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, irrespective of whether the bidding takes place during or after the four-year period, WADA said in a statement.

WADA's president, Sir Craig Reedie, a Scottish sports administrator and former chair of the British Olympic Association, said the "strong decision today shows WADA’s determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis." He said it also highlights WADA's "robust" investigative capabilities.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport," he said, adding that RUSADA's "blatant breach" demanded a strong response. "That is exactly what has been delivered today. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial."

But the decision protects Russian athletes "that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts" by allowing them to compete in major events without a national team, he said. They will have to show they had nothing to do with any positive doping tests or with any manipulated data.

Russians who have not taken part in the government-sponsored doping scheme can still compete at Tokyo next year as unaffiliated athletes, similar to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, where 168 Russians competed not on an official team but as "Olympic athletes from Russia."

But the Russian flag and anthem will have no place at Tokyo or Beijing. Russian government, Olympic and sports officials, including President Vladimir Putin, will not be allowed to attend the Olympic Games or any other major international competitions for the next four years.

Russian football players likewise still have the possibility of appearing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar if they participate "on a neutral basis" as a non-national team, Jonathan Taylor, head of WADA’s compliance panel, told a news conference. However, FIFA defines the World Cup as a competition for national teams.

“If they qualify, a team representing Russia cannot participate," he said of the 2022 World Cup. "But if there is a mechanism put in place, then they can apply to participate on a neutral basis, not as representatives of Russia."

Russia was ordered to pay all of WADA's legal costs for the case since January 2019 and a fine of up to US$100,000. RUSADA has three weeks to appeal the decision to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world’s top sports court.

A global "scourge" of doping

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said "it is obvious in this case that there are still significant doping problems on the Russian side — I mean our sports community.This can not be denied."

But, he added, "the fact that all these decisions are recurrent and have often been applied to athletes who have already been punished in one way or another , not to mention some other aspects — this certainly makes you think that it's just a continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria become chronic. "

In an unusual voice of dissent against the government, Yuri Ganus, who was appointed head of RUSADA at the end of August 2017, called on Russia to replace sports officials in positions of authority with new ones who will no longer rely on doping to compete.

“It is critically important to change approaches,” he told reporters in Moscow. “They are applying unacceptable, old-school approaches, and the people who promote these approaches must be replaced.”

In October, WADA said it had received responses from Russian authorities to questions raised over data “discrepancies” at an anti-doping center and opened a formal compliance procedure against RUSADA.

RUSADA was handed a three-year ban in 2015 for aiding a massive government-sponsored doping program in use during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. At the 2016 Rio Summer Games, only Russian athletes with a spotless international record on drug testing were allowed to compete. More than 100 were disqualified, but another 282 athletes still went to Rio de Janeiro and brought home the fourth-most medals of any nation.

With Ganus at the helm, RUSADA was reinstated in 2018 on condition that WADA inspectors gain access to RUSADA's Moscow laboratory. But after WADA inspectors were denied access to data from that laboratory as part of their investigation, Russia’s anti-doping agency was at risk of being suspended again.

Data received from the laboratory last January contained numerous discrepancies, prompting a referral to WADA’s intelligence and investigations department. In September, WADA’s inspectors identified 47 cases in which “evidentiary packages” were sent to international sports federations, resulting in the start of several disciplinary proceedings based on that evidence.

Many governments cannot be legally bound by a non-governmental document such as the World Anti-Doping Code, according to WADA, but they have signed onto the Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport, signaling their intention to sign an international treaty.

That treaty — the International Convention against Doping in Sport, the first such global accord against doping in sport — took effect in 2007, after 30 nations had ratified it. It was drafted under the auspices of UNESCO, the United Nations’ agency responsible for education, science, and culture.

WADA's director general, Olivier Niggli, said the main point of the international organization's compliance standards was to give people confidence that strong efforts were being made "to defend the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping."